Wednesday, 25 September 2013

We were scared of doing business in Nigeria -Ghanaian entrepreneurs

Nigeria and Ghana’s relationship are often described by social commentators as conjoined twins; difficult to separate and bound with many similar features such as culture, tradition and most importantly, trade.
For centuries, trade has been one of the major factors that has necessitated Ghanaians to take to the adventure of crossing Aflao, the border between Ghana and Togo; Hilla-Condji, the Togo-Benin border as well as Seme, the border that divides Benin and Lagos. Nigerians have, over the years, done the same, even when they had to use their feet to create illegal paths with their luggage fixed on their heads.
Over the years, informal trade had thrived between the two countries but not without challenges. The barriers encountered during trade exchange between them have, unfortunately, become more frustrating both for the formal and informal businesses; a development which has, to a large extent, stalled economic integration, not only between Nigeria and Ghana, but also among the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The prayers of Ghanaian manufacturers, traders and service providers who have been desiring to penetrate Nigeria, the African largest market, with population of over 170 million was, however, answered recently through the first ‘Made in Ghana’ solo exhibition which was held on the 3rd of September to 7th at the LTV blue-roof, Agidingbi, Ikeja, Lagos and facilitated by Director General of Ghana, Nigeria Trade and Investment: Otunba Michael Ajayi, who also doubles as the Chief Executive Officer of Vintage Visions.
The diversified expo, which did not only avail Ghanaian manufacturers the opportunity of showcasing their products and services, also included business seminars about doing business in Nigeria, market visitation/tour of Lagos metropolis and a networking cocktail/gala night.
Otunba Michael Ajayi, who facilitated the “Ghana-Togo-Benin-Nigeria Business summit” in 2009 with the theme, “Breaking Barriers and Partnering To Optimise Trade Potential”, while speaking to the Nigerian Tribune said, “This effort is aimed at strengthening the bilateral trade relations between Ghana and Nigeria, as well as introducing Ghanaian manufacturers and exporters to an exclusive opportunity to reach out to and explore the vast potential of the largest single market in Sub-Sahara Africa.
“We also hope it will help develop awareness of the huge export opportunities available for high quality locally made products from Ghana and create goodwill for them in the Nigerian market.”
Moreover, the first ‘Made in Ghana’ solo exhibition, which was chaired by Chief (Dr) Molade Okoya-Thomas, was also graced by the representative of Consulate General of Ghana, the Minister of Trade and Investment, Ben Heh and the Managing Directors of lead partners of the expo, Lolu Akindele of J.A. Plant Ghana and Gabriel Edga of First Atlantic Bank, Ghana. It also witnessed impressive numbers of manufacturers of made in Ghana products and service providers based in Ghana.
In his opening remark, Otunba Ajayi asserted that the first ‘Made in Ghana’ exhibition in Nigeria, “is no doubt a major milestone in the history of the bilateral relationship between Nigeria and Ghana.” He stated further that Ghana prides itself as the gateway to Africa,“hence this expo is an unrivaled platform to provide Ghanaian manufacturers and exporters an opportunity to reach out to and explore the vast potential of Lagos in particular and Nigeria in general, being the largest single market in Africa.”
Chief Okoya, in his address, revered the relationship between Nigeria and Ghana and the significance of economic integration between the two countries and West Africa as a whole. He said, “Trade between Nigeria and Ghana is no news, as we all know, because it started centuries back.
But civilisation and development has expanded the scope, as we put up policies serving as barriers which we hope will be resolved in order to see the underlying objectives that established ECOWAS coming to pass.”
He also urged both countries to pull down barriers to enhance trade between the two countries.
The event became more interesting and engaging for exhibitors at the “Doing Business in Nigeria” seminar where the Assistant Director of Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) South-West, Nigeria, Mr. Uzor Paul Onyekachi, a representative of Corporate Affairs Commission, Alhaji Abdulkareem Mohammed and Moyosore Onigbanjo took the Ghanaian exhibitors on informed discussion on the rules that guide foreign businessmen and manufacturers investing in Nigeria and modalities of business registration with CAC and NIPC; obtaining immigration clearances from Nigeria immigration office and operating license which Mr Paul affirmed was meant for formal sector.
The participants were also made to understand the opportunity of five to seven years tax holiday for manufacturers, lesser tax charge and the freedom to bring in capital and repatriate their capital and profit and the importance of registering their products’ logo and making sure that they seek the endorsement of National Agency for Food and Drug Control (NAFDAC) and Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON).
Ghanaian business men and women, during the question and answer session, however, expressed their fears of doing business in Nigeria, due to the news of insecurity and tough market competition, a factor which Mr. Kwame said was also compounded by the stress of delays and bribery at different borders, especially at Benin even when one had all the necessary documents.
“But now, I can say that we have come, seen how Lagos is and we have conquered our fears”, he said.
Mr. Heh also enjoined Ghanaians, coming to supply their products to their Nigerian counterparts to ensure that they understand the products on prohibition list before setting sail to Nigeria, in order not to end up getting their goods seized.
The exhibition, which also provided a platform for networking of business men and interested investors through the networking and cocktail night, was described by Otunba Ajayi as a success, “first and foremost, it has been a milestone because this is the first time we would be having Made in Ghana Solo Expo in Nigeria. Secondly, because of the political state of things in Ghana, as at the time of the expo, no one expected we would have this kind of response and also, we succeeded in ensuring that we did not have participants from one sector of the economy, which made it a diversified expo. As far as I am concerned, it was a success, because some of the exhibitors got their products sold off the very first day”.
Otunba Ajayi, speaking on the continuity of such event said, “we intend to make this an annual event and to also put together a Nigeria expo in Ghana. We also intend to make it an ECOWAS project and from there, we hope all the barriers at the borders will be minimised.”
Source: Nigerian Tribune

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